Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Regress

Can I just go back to my old tell-too-much self for a minute here? For some reason, this morning I have sat here feeling pretty neurotic about facebook. That usually (definitely) means that I need to stop checking it for a while. But there's the truth, so let's chat about it. I have never been one to care about who likes or doesn't like my posts on facebook. I share things that I think are funny, interesting, cute and I know that sometimes that will catch people's fancy and sometimes not. Nothing personal.

But. Then I started noticing that a family member was liking everyone else's posts except for mine. And at first I thought it was just a little thing that I noticed just once, and then it grew and I noticed it was for a slew of other family members, and almost never for me.

That's the part where I became neurotic. Of course I will never know why this person doesn't "like" my stuff. And this is once again one of those moments that I have to learn not to let other people's dislike of me not bother me. But in this case, when it is a family member and I don't know what happened, it hurts.

So in typical Jennifer fashion, my mind starts trying to come up with theories. Was it something I said? Did? Do they just not like me because of how I am? Someone recently mentioned to me that they could tell we were doing better because my posts on facebook have become more positive. I was a bit taken aback. Had I been posting really negative things to facebook? Maybe that was it?

I stopped posting to my blog for a while because there is a new trend out there to not share too much--ok, it's probably not a trend but a life lesson ha. Don't be too real. Don't show people your struggles and feelings because it makes you look reeeeally crazy. The phrase TMI (too much info) was coined during my lifetime, and I'm certain it's because of the advent of the internet, which has facilitated the ease of over-sharing. Suddenly, I realized that I often laid myself out on my blog and felt ashamed, like you feel when you're having a dream and suddenly realize that all during the dream you've been walking around naked. Suddenly you realize that people may have just been reading because you were embarrassingly transparent in what was going on in your life and it made for good reading like reality television makes for scintillating but not necessarily classy television.

So I retreated. I felt ashamed and exposed. I started to realize that the price of getting older is sometimes learning not only how much people disapprove of you, but that things you had been doing most of your life were considered gauche and naive.

And somewhere deep down, I began feeling like people might look at our family and think, well the young fun phase of their life is over. After finding out that we cannot have any other kids, I felt like the story was over, and the surprises were done.  Every year our christmas card would be the same cast of characters just getting older. There would never be another exciting announcement about due dates or gender. The crib was sold, the clothes that are grown out of are passed along. Somehow I am slowly coming to terms with it. But, I guess I never realized that with the end to my child-bearing era, I was also passing into a place where people may lose interest in you because you are also passing into older kids territory. And maybe that makes our family less exciting. Less facebook-likable?

Of course there is nothing we can do about other people's perceptions of us. Of course I know that the surprises in life are not done until you're dead. I still find immense fulfillment and joy in our family as it is. But I also realize that we are reaching milestones as a family much sooner than I had ever imagined we would. I find myself feeling older and drifting further away from that seemingly idyllic time of being a young mother with babies all around. It is the most bitter and most sweetly confusing thing. And all of this compounds into insecurity as I see one relative, that probably just doesn't like me, seem to lavish attention and praise on my younger relatives that are all going through these very phases of life.

So it seems like I've got more work to do on myself. Nothing new there. But it is a sad sweet moment for me to feel that an era that I wasn't ready to move past is doing so nonetheless.  And not only this, but to feel repressed in talking about my life. It's been a bit lonely, this transition to middle adulthood.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Where the Positives Always Beat out the Negatives

 My oh my, how the days are running by me. I look back at the pictures and feel like we have been so busy, and yet during many of the days it felt like they were dragging. I think that's the great paradox of being a stay at home mother.
 This weekend we were excited because Maddy finally got to go see the school she'll be attending next year. They had their screenings for second graders and the parents got to ask questions and play with their other kids/chase the school chickens while the second graders were inside. Afterwards there was plenty of time for Maddy to play too--and they all had a blast playing on the zipline and tire swings and running around.
 Apparently this chicken is "Lacewing." Later Maddy said there was a chicken named Burnt Toast too. I like the names. They have a very Harry Potter feel to them. She said there is one chicken that doesn't have a name yet. I'm thinking it needs to be Flitwick or Honeyduke.
 Some people are curious why I am switching Maddy's school. We actually quite like her current school. But the story of how she got into her new school is pretty miraculous (in my mind) and it feels SO right. I hate switching her again. I had serious misgivings about it. But she is SO excited and I get chills every time we have been there--I just know it's the right place for her. She knows it's the right fit for herself too, and having a zipline and chickens definitely helps. :)
 Even Granty got in on the fun. Man alive that kid is cute. He has been wearing Maddy's old cowboy boots around the past few weeks even though they are too big for him. Thank goodness she got the brown ones and not some pink bedazzled ones. :) He looks like a kid from the fifties. All he needs is a capgun and a button up plaid shirt.
 So we had an awkward exchange with a neighbor that came to our door with his son still in pajamas (seriously, what the heck?) to ask if our lawnmower was broken because our lawn was so tall. It was Friday, and John already was going to mow the lawn again on Saturday (like most men that work for a living), and I was just confused what the guy wanted. I tried to figure out if he was looking for us to pay him to do it or if he was complaining? I'm still not sure, it was weird. I felt embarrassed, but John had mown it the week before and not realized that the blades were on the highest setting, so it looked better after he cut it, but I knew it would grow out fast (and it did). Made me feel weird, especially since our other neighbors have been mad at us because we let our cats go outside sometimes (they're mad because they don't think cats should ever go outside, not because my cats do anything bad). It's sort of left a bad taste in my mouth as to what our neighbors are thinking of us. We are quiet and keep to ourselves a bit, and I wonder if that has made us seem like bad people? Anyway, the lawn was mowed again, this time on the lowest setting, and the cats are kept inside a bit more. So...maybe people will just let us live in a bit of peace. (I want to be a recluse in the country so bad).
 Good news is that we got to go on a date this weekend. We went to a place my friend recommended called Tupelo Honey. That is fried okra and oh boy was it tasty. It was so nice to be together alone. I had a REALLY rough week with our cowboy boot wearing fellow.
 This past week I have been thinking a lot about my mothering, and with today being Mother's day it has made it even more of an acute practice. As I have struggled this month with Grant and his three year old ways, I have found myself in tears many times. I have questioned whether I am a good mother. Wondering whether God was thinking straight when he sent me a little boy. Asking whether it should be this hard while he's still so young. Wondered if this is normal three year old boy antics or perhaps something more. I've found my heart drawn out in a near constant conversation with my Heavenly Father. Sometimes I feel bad that the prayers are sort of casual, as I am moving and working and have no time to stop--not the bent head and on my knees sort--and yet emotionally I have never been more on my knees. Somehow I feel that he knows. I often think of this scripture:

"Humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him. Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks. Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness. Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you."

 I know some people don't like Mother's day. They feel like it is another day to shine a light on their failures. Their misgivings. They think mothers are hyped up to some impossible standard that they will never achieve. I feel sad for these mothers and women. I can empathize with their sorrow and their concerns. I can see how those that wish to be a mother can be hurt by a day that celebrates what they long for but are denied. However, I am glad there is a Mother's day, because it reminds me not only to appreciate the mother that I have, but to look to myself and try and appreciate the mothering moments that I am in the process of creating.

 I guess I sort of think it's sad that people let the idea of a day take away from their happiness. They give their ideals of what the day should mean power over their lives when they could take ownership of it to mean something uplifting. On teacher appreciation day I don't take it as a chance to belittle myself that I am not a teacher, or that I am not living up to some sort of ideal. I take it as a chance to celebrate the good that comes from the people who choose to dedicate their lives to making the world a nicer place to live. And when people choose to denigrate Mother's day, it hurts me because I think it's okay for me to be proud to be a mother.

I feel that even with all of my five million blunders, for my losing my cool with my son this past week, for my forgetting something for Maddy's school, for all of my imperfections that make me feel like I am messing these adorable kids of mine up for good...well, for all of that, there is also the times I hold them when they are feverish, push them on their scooters, let them try and fail and then try and succeed, discipline them because I care about their characters, wash the sticks out of their hair with strawberry shampoo, and try to encourage them to find their talents and work hard. Every single day of this stay at home mom thing has challenged me. Every single day has been difficult in some way--even the really awesome days. I am in charge of two little people (just two! think of those with 5 and 6 and more!) and all I can do is try my best.

I want to say that again. All that I can do is try my best. My best will never be awesome. But it's my best. And my best also happens to include the most love for my kids that anyone in this world can have for those two souls. So my best is their best for now too.

How can I disparage myself for a work that is the most important thing I will ever do in my lifetime? The work to love even when it is hard. The work to teach them even when it is uncomfortable and inconvenient. The work to push beyond my native selfishness and grow my soul larger. They are working on me as hard as I am working on them. And I love them and motherhood and myself for it.

And if you're a mother, you should too.

 So for every time you see a picture of my kids doing something awesome, like free lego builds. Remember there were five tantrums on the way out.

 For every pretty picture of a made over kitchen, there are sad moments when you are sitting outside the door of your child crying as hard as they are on the other side.

 For every victory, there is a load of laundry.
 For every good thing you might do, there is going to be something you do wrong and have to apologize for. There will be kids fighting, counters that are sticky (again! whyyyy??), and t.v. that is too loud.

 It's okay. I just tell myself over and over; It's OK.

 Sometimes the ball will hit the frame and break the glass.
 Some days your hairdo's will be masterpieces.
 Some days only the carbs will save you.
 But most days
 if I really try my best
 and tell all the negative nellies in my head (and the negative neighbors that are all too real) to hush
 I am able to be present in the moment and realize

 the bad hard moments don't wipe away any good that I've done. The good stands alone for what it is.

 The great news in life is that life is not a giant math equation. The negatives don't detract from the positives. Each moment that we lift and guide
 and wash
 and dig, and explore--those moments add to our lives. And if you haven't read this post, then do me and you and your whole life a favor and go read it. She says it better than I ever could. So happy dang mother's day. You're doing it. So am I. Hope you have a really awesome day. I know I will...that sunshine yellow cardigan I got for my present today isn't going to wear itself! :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

There and Back Again

The pie I dragged all the way home from Maryland because that's just how good Amish pies are. No lie.
 These pictures are backwards in order. As usual. But this is the post where I get to remember how fun it was to go and visit my Mom's for Spring Break. It was the first time I've been brave enough to attempt the drive by myself with the kids and it wasn't as horrible as feared. Grant was actually awesome. I think he only cried once right after he woke up from a nap (and yes, he napped in the car!) So...I might attempt it again if I save up gas money. :)
 We actually left the day before Easter which everyone thought was odd. I wanted to stay, but I really didn't want John to be alone for a whole week and then miss Easter too. We love that guy. Plus, traffic was great so it was worth it. (that first egg picture was the egg Maddy was most proud of, she made it look like a dino egg).
 So we ended up decorating egss both at Grandma's and at our house. The kids were delighted by that.
 My niece Meg and sister. That baby is the cutest darn girl ever. I kept taking her picture because she just was killing me with her huge blue eyes and mischievious grin. Also, I now understand why my Mom (who watches Meg) is always tired--that girl is a full-time job just like Grant (well no....Grant is still way more high maintenance, but you know what I mean).

 Actually, even though Grant was so great on the drive, he made up for it by sort of being a monster while at Grandma's house. Holy cow. That kid really needs his schedule and normalcy. He wouldn't hardly listen to me or anyone else. I was ready to toss that kid out with the bathwater. I seriously broke down in tears at least twice. Luckily he got back to his normal level of naughty when we got home. :) I was super worried he had started an even worse stage of Terrible Three's. I was relieved. :)
 See what I mean about those eyes??
 I said, Hey Gordon, I want to take your picture. This is what I got. haha

I just like rainbows. I am a child of the 80's after all.
 There's that other cute niece Lylia.

 Someone got into her mom's makeup. My kids have surprisingly never done this so I laughed and laughed.
 This photo makes me burst out laughing every time. Jazz hands indeed.
 This girl is constantly chewing on her hair. Drives me crazy. Is cutting it the only remedy?? (I try to pull it back but she cut it herself on one side and that part always falls out).
 My sister is finally a certified spectacle-wearer like me. So proud.
 These Target bunny ears were so cute. I had bought Maddy the same pair at home. Great minds think alike.

 I'll bet my sister will be really thrilled I posted this one ha!
 One of the most relaxing moments for me was when my Mom let me ride her SUPER nice bike. It's one of those e-bikes that gives you a boost for the hard parts. I want one so bad now. It was the perfect spring day and I just drove up and down her street. The above view is the view from the end of her road. It's a pond and a horse farm if you can't tell. Gorgeous. I kept taking these huge cleansing breaths and imaging I was on vacation without any troubles in the world. And if felt true!
 a really lame picture of a really cool bike.
 Luckily Grandma always has a garage full of riding toys courtesy of garage sales. See, I come by my thrifty nature honestly.
 One of my favorite things to do is visit the Amish Market. Well it's technically called the Pennsylvania Dutch market. SO MUCH FOOD. It's obviously a terrible place if you're a health guru. Luckily, I have never been accused of that. ha
 I just love the feel of the market. I love seeing the workers with their bonnets. I love their dedication to their lifestyle and the wholesome feel to the shop. It feels so old and comforting.

Maybe I like it because it feels like an old school state fair with all the cakes and pies?
 And Yoder's Health Elixir
 I mean, we didn't buy any of those things, but they're all so pretty!
 The thing we did have to get is the fresh pretzels. It's not optional. I'm craving one now. Auntie Anne's in the mall is a freaking travesty compared to these.
 Okay, well a lot of our visit apparently revolved around food. We went to my favorite Eldersburg haunt, Smokey's. Their crab soup and turkey sandwich combo is the way you want to go. Old Bay seasoning and fresh fries. yum
 Even the kids liked it
 Ohhh, and this was probably my favorite day. My Mom and I took all the kiddos to the National Zoo. Entrance to the zoo is free (parking, not so much), and we had the BEST time.
 I'm trying to get into more of the pictures with my kids so that someday they realize that I was a fun mom dang it all.
 The sea lion exhibit was amazing
 Getting Grant to pose with me near the elephants was not happening

 He was not a happy camper. story of my life
 This girl is always up for a smile
 I had to take a picture of this guy. That is a komodo dragon and it was FLIPPING HUGE. I cannot tell you how amazed I was at how large he is. That thing is about the length of me, and I am not a short person. It was like seeing a live dinosaur. It was so cool!

 My favorite thing about doing stuff like this with my Mom is we always pack a backpack picnic lunch. Included in those lunches is always pringles, which won't get broken in the canister--It's her trademark. It made me feel like a little kid again visiting Washington D.C. or Gettysburg or the other five million places we went all together--especially after my Dad left. (also love that we ate next to the picturesque garbages)
 awww :)

Lylia and Maddy were zoo buddies and had to hold hands. Apparently Lylia is getting too old for that sort of thing ha. She was embarrassed half the time about it.
 It was a bit of a chilly day which I realized made it perfect for me. I usually hate visiting the zoo and I realized it's because I always go on a blistering hot day. The cool weather let us walk around and stay cool.
 The peanut gallery
 Spotted this fella at my mom's house. He was so tiny, smaller than a quarter.
 I kept looking out the window in my guest room and breathing. I don't think I take enough deep breaths at home. It was so calming and peaceful. Maybe it's just being at your mom's house and not feeling like you are in charge of everything anymore. It takes a load off of your shoulders sort of. Even though you are still watching your own kids and doing everything. I don't know how to explain it?

We flew the dollar store kites I brought
and played on Grandma's swingset too.

It was a great trip, super fun. I'm glad we went, even if Grant did almost make me lose my faith in myself as a mother. (it's just a phase, it's just a phase...) Deeeep breath. :)